The Pentagon isn't the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

The military isn’t the only one with special-operations units.

Numerous US government agencies and departments have specially selected, manned, and trained units with some unique mission sets. Because of the Posse Comitatus Act, which makes it almost impossible to use the active-duty military in a domestic scenario, some of these units are the last line of defense in their respective jurisdictions.

Here are the top 5:

Hostage Rescue Team (FBI)

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military
HRT operators conducting close-quarters battle training. FBI

The HRT specializes on domestic counterterrorism and hostage rescue. It’s the law-enforcement equivalent of Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 and frequently trains with both units.

To apply for HRT, an FBI special agent must have served two to three years in a field office. To become an operator, he or she then must pass a grueling two-week selection and then a 32-week operator training course similar to Delta Force’s.

The HRT recruits heavily from the special-operations community. Former Navy SEALs, Delta Force operators, Rangers, and Pararescuemen are some of those recruited by the Bureau. Tom Norris, a Navy SEAL who won the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, was one of the first HRT operators despite missing an eye.

The unit is composed of about 100 operators and is split into two teams (Gold and Blue) that contain assault and sniper teams.

Aside from armored vehicles, the unit has its own helicopters and boats and frequently trains with the top military units, such as the Night Stalkers. HRT operators train in a variety of environments, including arctic, urban, and maritime and learn several infiltration methods such as free-fall parachuting and close-circuit diving.

HRT operators have deployed to the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan alongside Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) forces.

The HRT conducted successful hostage rescues in Alabama in 2013 and Atlanta in 2014. It also participated in the hunt for the Boston marathon bomber in 2013.

Maritime Security Response Teams (Coast Guard)

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military
MSRT operators honing their marksmanship skills while underway. US Coast Guard

The MSRTs are Coast Guard’s elite. They specialize in maritime counterterrorism and high-risk maritime law enforcement. Like Navy SEALs, they also excel at Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) operations and often deploy outside the US.

The MSRT pipeline is almost 18 months and encompasses a variety of skills, including close-quarters battle, mission planning, fast-roping, and water survival.

Operators can then specialize in additional skills such as sniping, dog handling, and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High Yield Explosive (CBRNE) detection.

There are two teams, MSRT-West in California and MSRT-East in Virginia, totaling 300 operators.

The Coast Guard can be put under the control of the Department of the Navy during wartime, but in peacetime it is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

But MSRTs often deploy on and use Navy ships as platforms for their operations. If they have to do an interdiction in US waters, the Navy crew must raise the Coast Guard’s ensign, putting the ship under Coast Guard control for the duration of the operation in order to comply with the Posse Comitatus Act.

In the last six years, the MSRTs have deployed domestically and overseas in support of the military close to 200 times.

Special Response Teams (DEA)

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military
DEA agents burning hashish seized in Operation Albatross, a joint Afghan, NATO, and DEA operation, in 2008. DEA

The SRTs are DEA’s dedicated teams to execute high-risk searches and arrest warrants.

DEA special agents who wish to join the SRTs have to pass a two-week training course that covers tactical entries, vehicle interdiction, emergency medical care, advanced weapons, defensive tactics, mission planning, and mechanical breaching.

Special agents on SRTs serve part-time while also fulfilling their normal duties. There are 20 SRTs across the US.

The unit has only been operational since January 2020, but it can trace its lineage to the Foreign-Deployed Advisory and Support Teams (FAST) that were deactivated a few years ago.

DEA special agents assigned to FAST teams deployed regularly in Central and Latin America as part of the war on drugs but also to Afghanistan to counter the drug trade that fuels the Taliban war machine.

While in Afghanistan, the FAST teams developed a close working relationship with the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) and 2nd Commando Regiment.

Special Response Teams (Department of Energy)

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military
Security contractors at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site. Department of Energy

These are the men who defend America’s nuclear sites. Only contractors serve in the SRTs, and to join one has to pass a tactical response certification course.

The course teaches skills required to perform the high-risk recapture, recovery, and pursuit operations of nuclear material and to support interruption, interdiction, neutralization, containment, and denial strategies.

Contractors also go through marksmanship training, team tactical urban movement, and breaching, fieldcraft, close-quarters combat, and night operations.

The SRTs are also capable of dealing with active shooter or hostage situations involving Department of Energy sites and facilities.

The unit was established in 1981 and historically has been manned by special-operations veterans. Former Delta Force operators, in particular, have been key to developing the unit’s training curriculum and standard operating procedures.

There are about 400 contractors divided into seven SRTs that cover the department’s nuclear sites.

Special Operations Group (CIA)

SOG is the tactical arm of the CIA.

Divided into three branches (Ground, Air, Maritime), SOG conducts covert special-operations on behalf of the CIA.

Ground Branch specializes on unconventional warfare and is pretty similar to the Army’s Special Forces. Air Branch operates a fleet of aircraft in support of CIA operations. Maritime Branch operates ships and vessels and conducts maritime special-operations for the agency.

SOG is mostly composed of former special-operations troops, with Delta Force well represented in its ranks.

SOG is part of the Special Activities Center, which also includes the Covert Influence Group (CIG) that conducts psychological operations.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Amtrak is offering veteran and military member discounts

Veterans receive a 10% discount on the lowest available rail fare on most Amtrak trains.

Use the Fare Finder at the beginning of your search on www.amtrak.com and select ‘Military Veteran’ for each passenger as appropriate to receive the discount.


Military personnel save 10% and get ahead of the ticket line

With valid active-duty United States Armed Forces identification cards, active-duty U.S. military members, their spouses and their dependents are eligible to receive a 10% discount on the lowest available rail fare on most trains, including for travel on the Auto Train.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

An Amtrak train at Penn Station, NYC.

Just use the Fare Finder at the beginning of your search on www.amtrak.com and select ‘Military’ for each passenger as appropriate to receive the discount.

Additionally, Amtrak supports and thanks troops by welcoming uniformed military personnel to the head of the ticket line.

  • The veteran/military discount is not valid with Saver Fares or weekday Acela trains.
  • The veteran/military discount does not apply to non-Acela Business class, First class or sleeping accommodation. Veterans can upgrade upon payment of the full accommodation charges.
  • The veteran/military discount is not valid for travel on certain Amtrak Thruway connecting services or the Canadian portion of services operated jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada.
  • The veteran/military discount may not be combined with other discount offers; refer to the terms and conditions for each offer.
  • Additional restrictions may apply.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat Flip-Flops’ latest is a beautiful, uniquely Afghan gift

There is no gift more uniquely Afghan than something made of the mineral lapis lazuli. Since the dawn of human civilization, nowhere was the powerful blue rock more plentiful than in this now-war-torn country. The history of using this stone in jewelry dates back to the days of the Pharaohs of the Nile River Valley, but its time as a mineral dates back much further, to the Archean Eon — before life on Earth.

Now, you can wear a small piece of it while helping the women of Afghanistan put their lives back together. Combat Flip-Flops, the clothing company founded by two Army Rangers with a mission of using business entrepreneurship and women’s education to end the cycle of conflict in the Afghanistan, has a new product: a bracelet made from lapis lazuli. Each is handmade in Afghanistan using stones from the Sar-i Sang Mines — the same mine whose ores have decorated ancient kings and queens across the known world.

Lapis lazuli has a rich history and you can own a piece of it. We’re working with Combat Flip-Flops to give our readers 20-percent off their purchase when using the coupon code at the end of this article.


The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

(Combat Flip-Flops)

Lapis lazuli dates back some 2.7 billion years — that’s more than half of the Earth’s total age. It wasn’t until well after its formation that the first stirrings of single-celled organisms began to appear on Earth. Humans didn’t appear as we know them until five to seven million years ago.

This stone is, truly, timeless.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

The raw lapis lazuli gives the mask its deep blues.

(Egyptian Musum in Cairo)

Humans in what we today call Afghanistan first began mining and using lapis lazuli around the 7th millennium BC, the same time agriculture began to spring from Mesopotamia. The beauty of the deep blue stones has been found at numerous ancient sites, from the Indus Valley in modern-day India to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, Georgia, and Armenia. Afghan lapis lazuli was even found on the West Coast of Africa. Queen Cleopatra is said to have used it as eyeshadow and the mineral adorns King Tutankhamun’s burial mask.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

In the middle ages, lapis lazuli was imported through the Silk Road, crushed, and turned into the deepest blue hues of paint available anywhere on earth: the ultra-expensive, ultramarine color. Artists like Michelangelo, Titian, and Vermeer all used the color in their most famous works.

The skies depicted on the Sistine Chapel are all painted with ultramarine, from lapis lazuli of Afghanistan.

For 6,000 years Afghans have mined the Sar-i Sang for lapis lazuli. The deeply blue-hued mineral can be found on everything from Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring, to Fabergé Eggs on display in St. Petersburg.

Now, it can adorn your wrist or the wrist of someone you love. Besides having a rich history laced with historical beauty, purchasing one of the lapis lazuri bracelets from Combat Flip-Flops will fund one day of school for a young Afghan girl, employ an Afghan war widow, and support the relatives of fallen American troops..

Sold in conjunction with TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, America’s premiere nonprofit dedicated to the families of America’s fallen fighting men and women), this lapis lazuli bracelet is made in Afghanistan, shipped to the U.S., and prepared for you by members of a Gold Star Family.

If you’ve never heard of Combat Flip-Flops before now, check out this vet-owned business. They’re doing some amazing things at home and abroad.

Buy your “Perfect Circle” lapis lazuli bead bracelet at Combat Flip-Flops and get 20 percent off with the coupon code: PERFECTWATM

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Marine Corps is moving all of its raiders to the East Coast

Nearly 15 years after the Marine Corps created its own special operations command, the service is now consolidating the command by moving all its operators to North Carolina.


About 900 Marines, sailors and civilians with the California-based 1st Marine Raider Battalion and its support unit will relocate to Camp Lejeune by the end of 2022. The move, which was announced on Wednesday, will help Marine Corps Special Operations Command become more efficient, officials said in a statement.

The consolidation “will allow MARSOC to gain back almost 2,000 man-days per year,” according to the statement. Those days are otherwise spent on permanent change of station moves and temporary assignment duty requirements.

The move will also allow MARSOC to reform as it shifts its efforts and funding toward preparation for fighting a great-power competition, as laid out in the National Defense Strategy and commandant’s planning guidance, Maj. Gen. Daniel Yoo, MARSOC’s commander, said on Wednesday.

“MARSOC has been pursuing numerous lines of effort to increase performance, efficiencies, and capabilities … to build a more lethal force and reform the department for greater performance and affordability,” he said in a statement. “One line of effort is the consolidation of all Marine Special Operations Forces to the East Coast.”

Marine Corps Times reported on Wednesday that Marine officials estimate the move will save the command million over a five-year period.

Officials said having all its Raiders on one coast will also improve readiness and deployment-to-dwell time.

“MARSOC will be better positioned to [provide] greater stability and increased quality of life to Marine Raiders and their families,” the statement says.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Members of 1st Marine Raider Battalion and 1st Marine Raider Support Battalion have been based at Camp Pendleton since MARSOC was activated in 2006. Moving the units’ personnel and equipment to Camp Lejeune will occur in three phases.

The phases will be timed to minimize disruptions to Marines and their families, MARSOC officials said in the statement announcing the plan. Personnel and families will begin the cross-country moves during the traditional PCS cycle beginning in the summer of 2021.

Those moves are timed to allow families to complete PCS orders between academic school years.

The command is working with community plans and school liaison officers on the East Coast to determine the effects the relocations will have on school districts and the local community in and around Camp Lejeune. Base leaders will work with schools in the area “to anticipate and plan for increases in student population and to ensure that all students will be accommodated effetely and receive a quality education,” officials said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

11 most sophisticated scams you should watch out for

As the internet continues to expand into every aspect of society, online scams are only growing in sophistication.

From phishing schemes to fake ticket vendors, online scams prey on different facets that drive us, like sympathy, fear, and greed.

What online scams all have in common is that they prey on their audiences’ naïveté and ignorance.

Some of the most elaborate scams are circulating the corners of the internet right now, from the front page of YouTube to right in your inbox.

Here are some of the most sophisticated online scams on the internet.


1. Phishing has major consequences for the victims.

One of the most widespread online scams is phishing. In 2016, depending who you ask, phishing at most derailed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, and at the least, revealed her campaign manager’s delightful recipe for creamy risotto.

Phishing, when successful, tricks the user into unwittingly handing over their passwords to the scammer, often through professional-looking emails purporting to be from trustworthy businesses. The endgame is generally acquisition of personal information, like credit card and social security numbers.

According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, nearly 100,000 attempts of phishing are reported each month worldwide.

Recently, phishing has been weaponized to varying degrees of sophistication with a key technique: impersonation.

The trick was enough to convince one employee at Gimlet Media, which runs the everything-internet podcast “Reply All,” to open an email from his “coworker.” Except the sender was not his coworker, but a hacker attempting a work-sanctioned phishing test on the company’s employees.

Familiarity fraud is an online tactic people have to be especially wary of on social media, where friends’ pictures and handles are rife for imitation. Duplicate accounts fish for personal information under the guise of intimacy.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

2. The Nigerian prince scam is one of the oldest on the internet.

The Nigerian prince scam is one of the oldest scams on the internet.

The scam rose to prominence in the 1990s, and is referred to by the FBI as “Nigerian Letter” or “419” fraud.

The premise is simple: You get an email, and within the message, a Nigerian prince (or investor, or government official) offers you an opportunity for lucrative financial gain.

The catch? Pay a small portion of the amount up front, or hand over bank account information and other identifying information so that the transfer can be made. Of course, you lose that “seed money,” never receiving a dime in return.

According to a 2018 Wired article, the conspiracy has risen in sophistication, netting millions in scam money and minor celebrity status for the Nigerian email schemers who commit the fraud.

“It’s malware and phishing combined with clever social engineering and account takeovers,” James Bettke, a counter threat unit researcher at the security firm Secureworks, told Wired reporter Lily Hay Newman in 2018.

“They’re not very technically sophisticated, they can’t code, they don’t do a lot of automation,” he added. “But their strengths are social engineering and creating agile scams. They spend months sifting through inboxes. They’re quiet and methodical.”

3. Ticket fraud leads to consumers buying fake sports and music tickets.

Another popular online scam is ticket fraud, in which consumers are tricked into buying fake tickets for sporting events, concerts, and other events.

Scammers usually target high-profile events that are likely to sell out so they can take advantage of increased demand. Often, the tickets they send customers have forged bar codes or are duplicate copies of legitimate tickets. Other times, consumers won’t receive any ticket at all after they pay up.

More than 10% of millennials have been victims of ticket fraud, and the Better Business Bureau recommends customers take several precautions before buying tickets online.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

4. Some people have been messaged by celebrity impersonators.

A variation on the phishing game is when online scammers masquerade as celebrities and influencers.

In January 2019, YouTube star Philip DeFranco had to warn his 6 million-plus subscribers of one such scam.

“If you have gotten a message from me or any other creator on YouTube that looks something like this, that is very likely someone trying to scam you,” DeFranco said in a video posted to his channel.

The faux DeFranco slid into targets’ Youtube messages, promising “gifts” via the click of a hyperlink. The scammer’s real endgame: identity theft for financial gain through a classic online phishing scheme.

More than 150 YouTube users on the community page said they fell for the ploy.

“We’re aware and in the process of implementing additional measures to fight impersonation,” a YouTube employee wrote in response to complaints of scam. “In the meantime, we’ve removed accounts identified as spam.”

The company also said users could block any account spamming them and that the perpetrating channels can be reported through its reporting tool.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

A promotional video for Fyre Festival.

(Scribd/NickBilton)

5. Other times, people feel scammed by the real influencers.

It’s one thing to be duped by an imaginary celebrity. But there’s also a trend of feeling swindled by the IRL influencers.

One viral Twitter thread accused Instagram influencer Caroline Calloway of using her online image to scam attendees out of 5 to attend her “creativity workshop.”

And angry mobs incensed by the fiasco that was Fyre Festival — an event so botched it warranted not one, but two documentaries — directed much of their ire at the event’s celebrity influencers.

The defrauded cited a lack of transparency as to what the influencers were paid to hawk the festival to their millions of followers online, although not everyone agreed they deserved the blame to begin with.

6. But sometimes the influencers themselves can get scammed.

One variety of online grift victimizes the influencers themselves with identity-fraud tactics common to phishing.

Earlier this year, a scammer posing as entrepreneur and investor Wendi Murdoch used email handles and other techniques so convincing, social media stars were tricked into buying their own flights to Indonesia and paying for fake photography permits as part of the scam.

The victims, influencers and travel photographers among them, got bilked out of thousands of dollars in the process.

The FBI and New York Police Department opened investigations into the scam in 2018, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Also assisting is the corporate investigations firm K2 Intelligence, which tracked the scam’s pivot from celebrities to influencers.

“For a long time, they were going after people in Hollywood. [Now, they’re] routinely targeting influencers — Instagram stars, travel photographers, people who do stuff that involves them travelling all over the world,” Nicoletta Kotsianas, a director at K2 Intelligence, told INSIDER in January.

“It’s about convincing some people that there’s someone else, and manipulating them, being into that, and world-building around the whole thing,” she added. “They’re making some money off it, but it’s really about the ride along the way.”

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand, provided by cyber security firm Symantec.

7. Ransomware held a whole city hostage in 2018.

Some of the most insidious online scams involve ransomware.

In a ransomware attack, hackers install malware onto a computer or system of computers that restricts a victim’s access to their files. Payment, often in the form of bitcoin, is demanded to undo it.

Atlanta’s government was hobbled by a ransomware attack in 2018, and wound up costing the city more than .6 million to recover from, according to a Wired report.

The hackers behind the scheme “deliberately engaged in an extreme form of 21st-century digital blackmail, attacking and extorting vulnerable victims like hospitals and schools, victims they knew would be willing and able to pay,” Brian Benczkowski, the head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, said in November.

It’s no wonder the menacing form of attack has made it into a “Grey’s Anatomy” plotline.

8. Fake ransomware traps can be equally damaging.

At their worst, ransomware scams exploit the victim’s sense of security and privacy.

And in one terrifying variation, attackers claim via email to have hacked a webcam while the target watched porn.

The cam-hacking claim, which is bolstered by parroting the user’s password in the email, is means for blackmail: Send us bitcoin, or we send all your contacts the footage.

The reality? Pure manipulation. The scammers don’t have dossiers of footage. They never even hacked you. How? Because the password they flaunted wasn’t hacked, but harvested, gleaned from publicly available databases of leaked passwords and emails.

So there’s no need to cover your laptop’s camera. For now.

9. GoFundMe fake-outs take advantage of people’s generosity.

Another thriving online grift is the GoFundMe sob story fake-out.

One notable example came in a feel-good story from 2017 about a couple raising 0,000 for a homeless veteran who had lent them his last . As prosecutors discovered, the trio had concocted the entire story, and not only do they face a mix of federal and state charges, but GoFundMe refunded the donations of all 14,000 contributors.

Another example of strategic storytelling in the art of crowdsourced scamming: A black college student who raised money from Republicans on GoFundMe after claiming her parents disowned her for supporting Trump.

The narrative was suspiciously convenient — because it was a hoax. Although she quickly returned the money she raised, she also exposed how easily you can take advantage of people’s generosity.

10. Pump-and-dump schemes can artificially inflate the value of a currency.

Cryptocurrency is often the form of payment in online scams, but in one scheme, the crypto itself is the fraud.

Investment schemes were always destined to flourish online. By using the web to mass target would-be investors, a schemer can commit the Securities and Exchange Commission no-no of artificially “pumping” up the value of stock to the masses in order to then “dump” the stock on a falsely inflated return.

According to The Outline, thousands of people gather online on apps like Discord and scheme to pump and dump cryptocurrencies (known as “s—coins” and “scamcoins” to those duped by the ploy):

“[The] ethos is simple: Buy low, sell high. The implication is that investors outside the pump group will see the rapidly rising price and rush to buy in, anxious not to miss the next Bitcoin-style gold rush,” Paris Martineau of The Outline wrote.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Ethereum cofounder Vitalik Buterin.

11. And fake news can fuel the problem.

The online manipulation gets even weirder. According to Buzzfeed, spreading fake news online is one of the “pump” tactics used by scammers to pilfer naive fawns in the highly unregulated forest that is cryptocurrency.

“There are frankly a lot of groups that have now centered around misinformation,” Laz Alberto, a cryptocurrency investor and editor of the newsletter Blockchain Report, told BuzzFeed reporters Ryan Mac and Jane Lytvynenko in 2018. “It’s obviously illegal, but there’s no regulation and they’ve gotten away with it.”

A cryptocurrency founder was even himself the target of a fake news hoax in 2017, when news spread that Vitalik Buterin, cofounder of the cryptocurrency Ethereum, had died in a car crash.

The fake reports of Buterin’s death caused Ethereum’s valuation to plummet in the market — and later rebound — when the very-much-alive Buterin debunked the rumor himself.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Unless you’re a Guamanian local, been stationed on Guam or have participated in the drop itself, Netflix’s new holiday movie may be the first time that you’ve of Operation Christmas Drop. In fact, the operation is the Department of Defense’s longest-running mission and the longest-running humanitarian airlift in the world. Here are five incredible facts about Operation Christmas Drop.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military
Tech. Sgt. Mario Montoya collects any remaining debris from an LCLA bundle during Operation Christmas Drop 2019 (U.S. Air Force)

1. It started with a random act of kindness

During the Christmas season of 1952, a WB-29 Superfortress of the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Wing was flying a mission from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. While over the Micronesian atoll of Kapinga-Marangi, the crew spotted islanders waving at them from down below. In the spirit of Christmas, the airmen collected supplies that they had on board, placed them in a container with a parachute attached and circled around to drop the care package. Since then, the operation has grown and continued every year.

2. It benefits islanders and airmen

According to an Andersen Air Force Base statement, “The event provides readiness training to participating aircrew, allowing them to gain experience in conducting airdrops while providing critical supplies to 56 Micronesian islands impacting about 20,000 people.” Aircrews coordinate the drops with the islanders via ham radio. Using Low-Cost Low-Altitude air drops, containers are dropped in the water just off the shore to avoid hitting any locals. In 2011, the drop included 25 boxes of IV fluids for Fais Island to combat an outbreak of dengue fever. In 2013, the drops included critical supplies of food and water for 30 recovery workers on Kayangel Island after it was hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan. In 2020, though additional safety measures will be put in place due to COVID-19, Operation Christmas Drop will go on. This year’s drop targets 55 Micronesian islands across a 1.8 million square nautical mile operating area.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military
Royal Australian Air Force pilots of the 37th Squadron participate in Operation Christmas Drop 2018 (U.S. Air Force)

3. The drops are completely legal

Unlike how it’s portrayed in the Netflix film, there is no Congressional issue with Operation Christmas Drop. The drops are conducted under the protection of the Denton Amendment. Also known as the Denton Cargo Program, it was launched in 1985. The program allows for space available on military aircraft to be used to carry humanitarian aid supplies to countries in need and for disaster relief. Aid under the Denton Program comes at minimal or no added cost to taxpayers since it utilizes excess space on scheduled military flights. Today, the program is administered jointly by USAID, the Department of State, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and the Department of Defense.

4. The operation involves units across the Pacific

As mentioned in the Netflix film, Operation Christmas Drop involves international partners like Japan, Australia and the Philippines. While the U.S. Air Force’s 36th Wing and 734th Air Mobility Squadron are based at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and play a major part in the operation, other organizations support the drop, too. The 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, the University of Guam and the “Operation Christmas Drop” private organization all help to make the drop possible.

5. The drops are all donations

In the months leading up to the drop, volunteers set up donation boxes and raise money from local businesses and citizens. A week before the drop, volunteer service members, civilians and contractors collect and sort through the donations. Afterwards, riggers at Yokota and Andersen volunteer their spare time to build boxes to hold the donations. The majority of items dropped are school supplies, clothes, rice, construction materials, fishing equipment and toys.

While many service members will be quick to point out military inaccuracies in the film, the positive effect that the drop has cannot be argued. The relief and joy that Operation Christmas Drop brings to the people of Micronesia every year is an incredible achievement and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the volunteers that make it possible.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military
(U.S. Air Force)
MIGHTY CULTURE

Army celebrates anniversary of the ‘first successful military jump’

As the national anthem played, the audience held hands over hearts and watched as a U.S. Army parachutist glided down from an unbroken blue sky, pulling a U.S. flag behind him.

So opened the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning’s National Airborne Day observation Aug. 16, 2019, at Fryar Drop Zone at Fort Benning. The first paratrooper test jump took place 79 years ago, Aug. 16, 1940, at Fort Benning.

The first test of a U.S. Army paratrooper drop occurred at Fort Benning Aug. 16, 1940, when Lt. (later Col.) William T. Ryder and Lt. (later Lt. Col.) James A. Bassett led the Airborne Test Platoon. The platoon jumped onto Lawson Field (later Lawson Army Airfield), completing the first successful military parachute jump.


After the national anthem, members of the U.S. Army Parachute Team, nicknamed the Golden Knights, from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and members of the Silver Wings parachute team from Fort Benning performed a freefall parachute jump demonstration from a UV18 Viking Twin Otter plane onto Fryar Drop Zone. The Golden Knights jumped in with golden parachutes, and the Silver Wings jumped in with black parachutes.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

An Army Silver Wings parachutist wraps his legs into the line of the Golden Knights parachute as if he were sitting atop the parachute, and a Golden Knight parachutist carries below him a weighted tether and a flag emblazoned with the black-and-gold Army star.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

The final two parachutists to land — one from the Golden Knights, one from the Silver Wings — came in one literally on top of the other. The Silver Wings parachutist wrapped his legs into the line of the Golden Knights parachute as if he were sitting on the parachute, and the Golden Knight carried below him a weighted tether and a flag emblazoned with the black-and-gold Army star.

“This is where I started jumping out of airplanes, all the way back in 2006,” said Staff Sgt. Houston Creech of the Golden Knights. “Just being here this day, with all the progression I’ve gone through and the skills I’ve gained through the Army’s training — being able to be here on this specific day is a tremendous honor.”

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

A Soldier with the U.S. Army Parachute Team jumps onto Fryar Drop Zone.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

“It’s the pride and history of the unit and the organization,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Porter, on jumping as part of the Silver Wings for National Airborne Day. “Our legacy and our history build the future of what we are right now.”

“We’re celebrating both those that came before us, those that are currently training and defending our nation, and those that come after,” said 199th Infantry Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Young, who jumped as part of the Silver Wings jump team.

The Liberty Jump Team made two jumps of 14 and 16 volunteer parachutists following the Golden Knights and the Silver Wings demonstration. Their members were dressed in period Army uniforms, displaying what soldiers would have worn during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Operation Desert Storm. The team jumped from a restored C-47 Skytrain. The particular plane to drop them over Fryar Drop Zone holds the moniker “Greenland Gopher,” and participated in D-Day and Operation Market Garden during World War II as well as in the Berlin Airlift.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

One round of volunteer parachutists from the Liberty Jump Team jump onto Fryar Drop Zone.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Jim Micko, member and senior rigger of the Liberty Jump Team, said his team’s jump was in recognition of the “courage and foresight of the people that took that first step,” referring to the U.S. Army soldiers who pioneered airborne operations before and during World War II.

“The fact that they were able to make it work and make it work in time for the war is a phenomenal thing,” said Micko.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Two members of the Liberty Jump Team, a commemorative team of volunteer parachutists, jump out of a restored C-47 Skytrain.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

The Golden Knights are part of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, the mission of which is to “recruit America’s best volunteers to enable the Army to win in a complex world.” Creech made a practical recommendation to anyone who aspires to become a U.S. Army paratrooper:

“Run,” he said. “Practice running a lot. You need very strong legs. Do a lot of squats. If you’re going to be jumping out of airplanes, those legs are going to need to be able to support that weight coming.”

To learn more about Airborne School or to see more photos from this event, visit the “Related Links” section on this page.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

An NFL player and West Pointer reenlisted troops before the Cardinals-Rams game

In the hours before the Arizona Cardinals kicked off against the Los Angeles Rams, an even more special thing happened in the Cardinals’ end zone. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it was only one of two events that took place in their end zone all night. Arizona fell to Los Angeles 31-9, but 45 U.S. troops were sworn in or reenlisted that night.


You win some, you lose some.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military
West Point NFL player conducts mass oath of enlistment ceremony

But wait a minute. According to 10 U.S. Code § 502, the oath has to be administered by a commissioned officer. So who is swearing in these kids and troops? That’s 1st Lt. Brett Toth, who is a beneficiary of the recent rule changes to service academy athletes. Toth’s military service requirement was deferred in order to play offensive tackle for the Arizona Cardinals while he was in prime physical condition. Toth is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a former player for the Army Black Knights football team. He played in two of Army’s most recent wins over Navy.

The group of 45 future soldiers and Marines gathered in front of him before the game’s kickoff were recruits from the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion and was part of the local Salute to Service celebration within the Cardinals franchise. The Cardinals, former home of a deceased Army ranger and former Cardinal Pat Tillman, are very excited to celebrate Salute to Service every November. It doesn’t hurt to have an actual lieutenant on hand, either.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

(U.S. Army photo by Alun Thomas)

As Toth, who is currently on the team’s disabled list, led the mass Oath of Enlistment, the crowd began to cheer wildly. After taking the oath, the 45 newly-christened U.S. troops were able to stay for the game. When the Cardinals took the field, the first people out of the locker room were Capt. Edward Donaghue, commander of the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion, and Staff Sgt. Gregory Hunter, one of the battalion’s recruiters.

Though the game started on a very high note for the Cardinals players and for America’s newest troops, it didn’t take long to turn for the worst. The Cardinals were soundly defeated in a 31-9 loss to the Rams.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Which special operators make the best CIA agents?

There are more rumors and myths floating around about the Central Intelligence Agency then there are actual facts. “The Agency” or “The Company” is charged with preempting threats and furthering national security objectives by collecting and analyzing intelligence and conducting covert action while simultaneously safeguarding our nation’s secrets. It’s a broad mission, and a lot of trust has been granted to them by the American people to carry it out.

But it takes a special kind of person to thrive in the CIA.

Who, or what, are they looking for? And do those who served at the tip of the spear while in the military have a competitive advantage? If so, is a U.S. Navy SEAL better than a U.S. Army Ranger? Or does a Green Beret’s experience hold more weight when competing for one of the few spots available as a gray man?


The CIA doesn’t publicly answer any of those questions, instead opting to keep their ideal candidate’s qualifications vague. So we reached out to a few veterans of the Agency to see if they noticed any trends.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Hafer while deployed to Africa.

(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)

Evan Hafer, former CIA contractor

Evan Hafer is in the coffee business these days, but he started out as a U.S. Army Special Forces NCO (noncommissioned officer) before transitioning to contracting for the CIA. He’s deployed dozens of times around the world on their behalf, and he even assessed and trained those who were trying out for the Agency’s elite high-threat, low-visibility security force toward the end of his career.

“It all depends on what kind of officer you’re looking for,” Hafer said. “When you look at paramilitary operations, they have a wide variety of objectives. A good portion is working by, through, and with foreign nationals while conducting covert action. For a long time, Special Forces did a lot of covert action, so they made for the best agents in that respect.”

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Hafer while deployed to Afghanistan.

(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)

Hafer went on to explain that there are different types of jobs at the Agency that require different skill sets. “Typically a good Ranger NCO will make a great guy for on-the-ground, high-threat, low-visibility security work. And Marines across the spectrum are pretty good at a lot of different things.”

Hafer made sure to note the difference between conducting direct action (DA) in the military’s special operations units and gathering intelligence for the CIA. “If you like blowing doors down, intel will bore the fuck out of you,” Hafer said. “It’s a lot of writing, and regardless of background, guys who enjoy DA might not like the intel job.”

“If you’re a hammer and every problem is a nail, then you won’t like being the pen.”

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)

Bob Baer, former CIA case officer

You may recognize Bob Baer from his work hosting investigative shows on the History Channel or delivering commentary on CNN, but before that he spent 21 years as a CIA case officer. He deployed around the world, speaks eight languages, and even won the CIA’s career intelligence medal.

“It’s almost always Special Forces,” Baer said about the ideal background for working operations in the CIA. “These guys are out in places training locals. I found the SF guys, especially the ones who have experience working in strange places, to be most effective.”

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)

He even went so far as to say that elite Tier 1 operators (that many would assume to be perfect for the job) often don’t work out. “For them, it’s so low-speed — there’s not as much excitement as they’re used to. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Delta or SEAL Team Six guy make the adjustment.”

Baer echoed Hafer’s sentiment toward the U.S. Marines, saying, “It seemed the Marines did a good job adjusting.” And admitted that he usually preferred a military background over a straight academic: “All in all, people who were in the military were best because they learned about dealing with government BS, while the least equipped were always the academics.”

We are the Directorate of Operations

www.youtube.com

Robyn, former CIA case officer

Robyn, like Baer, was a case officer for the CIA and spent years running sources around the world — to include active combat zones. She asked that we not use her last name but was happy to offer her thoughts on not just the ideal military resume, but also what it actually takes to be a successful case officer regardless of background.

“At the end of the day, you’re selling a lemon. You’re convincing someone to commit espionage and provide intel against their country in exchange for whatever is valuable to them,” Robyn explained. “You have to convince them that you care, that their life matters — whether it does or not.”

“So the guys that do well are the guys that understand the human factor,” she continued. “They have to understand what makes someone tick and pretend to be concerned. People are not going to put their lives at risk for someone who doesn’t care. You have to care.”

Robyn recalled a former state trooper who she worked with that did well, noting that a law enforcement background laid a solid foundation for talking to people who can be difficult to extract information from, such as witnesses and victims.

“The militant guys don’t do well,” Robyn said, noting that there’s a difference between being militant and being from the military, and that it takes a unique person to operate in the gray for months or even years at a time. “They’ve gotta operate without mental, emotional, or personal boundaries. There’s no commander’s intent, and the mission isn’t always clear. A renaissance man will do better than the fire-breather, even if they both come from Special Forces. We need the guys who can jump between philosophy and tactics while maneuvering in all different environments.”

The one thing that Hafer, Baer, and Robyn all agreed on is that no single bullet point on a resume qualifies someone for the difficult work of the CIA. They all emphasized that it takes a special person, and the best people at the Agency often have certain intangibles that you either have or you don’t. It seems it takes much more than a trident or a tab to make it into the nation’s most elite intelligence agency — and that’s a good thing.

Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

TOPGUN Instructor shares his leadership lessons from the cockpit in new memoir

One of the benefits of being in the military is that the services place a great value on training and education. Throughout a 20-year military career, service members will have the opportunity to attend schools ranging from learning how to jump out of planes all the way to how to use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. If we could offer one critique, it is that we don’t have more opportunities to learn across the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

Recently, I was able to jump the divide and learn from a Navy pilot. I grabbed a new book by Guy “Bus” Snodgrass about his unique experience as an instructor at one of the most premier schools in the military: TOPGUN School. The book, titled TOPGUN’s Top 10: Leadership Lessons from the Cockpit, is part memoir, part leadership book and an extremely quick read at less than 200 pages. Bus recounts how the lessons he learned as a pilot at TOPGUN helped him throughout his military career, and I also found them worthy of application in my line of work in the Army.


We had the opportunity to catch up to Bus and talk to him about his book and about the important role writing and reading played in his military career.

WATM: TOPGUN’s Top 10 is packed full of valuable and insightful lessons. When you were going through the course and later instructing, did you realize that you were learning these leadership skills or did the realization come after the fact?

Bus: I’ll give you the quintessential TOPGUN response: It depends.

Some lessons, like, “Nothing Worthwhile Is Ever Easy,” and, “Focus on Talent, Passion and Personality,” were apparent while I was serving as a TOPGUN Instructor. Others, like, “Don’t Confuse Activity with Progress” and, “Never Wait to Make a Difference,” started at TOPGUN but also benefit from experiences serving alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other senior leaders.

To be honest, the seeds for each of these lessons were planted back in high school because of terrific mentors from my church, community, and Scouting.

WATM: In the book, you make the point that the world is full of noise (social media, news media, things in life that don’t matter). How did Top Gun teach you to focus and what role has focus played in your professional career?

Bus: We call this “compartmentalization” in the aviation community — the ability to push aside distractors and focus solely on the task at hand. As I share in the chapter titled, “Stay Calm Under Pressure,” the ability to prioritize and sort fact from fiction is a critical trait, one that saved my life on a number of occasions.

TOPGUN accomplishes this feat by focusing on an awareness regarding the harm caused by distractions. You never have enough time in any given day to accomplish all that is asked of you. You’re flying high-performance fighter jets to the very edge of your capabilities. Like stoicism, you have to learn to master yourself before you can master the events around you.

WATM: Out of all the lessons you learned at TOPGUN, which one was the most valuable to you? And now that you are out of the military, has that one changed?

Bus: “Never Wait to Make a Difference” remains my favorite lesson. We can all accomplish some absolutely incredible results, many on a level well above our pay grade or position in an organization, if we commit to making a positive difference each and every day.

I’d say this lesson is first among equals… and remains so to this day.

WATM: I know you’re an avid reader and have published articles throughout your military career, did those two practices give you a competitive advantage in your military career?

Bus: Yes, I believe so, especially if you desire to make an outsized impact to your organization. A significant number of leaders who rise to senior levels of responsibility have embraced authorship: Gen. H.R. McMaster, Secretary James Mattis, service chiefs, senior enlisted, and many more.

Writing forces you to prioritize and align your thoughts, which also helps you to better understand what you care about and stand for. Publishing, whether in a professional journal or to a wider audience, significantly increases your chances of influencing others. Publishing also teaches us to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s no small task to put your thoughts into the public domain but like any muscle, the more you use it, the easier the exercise becomes.

WATM: Since we’re talking about reading, what book or books have been the most influential to you as a leader?

Bus: Each book can be paired with a situation or an experience in our life.

In high school, I really enjoyed Stephen King, Tom Clancy and Isaac Asimov — large chapter books that engaged my interest and imagination. As I started college, I really enjoyed reading biographies about senior political and military leaders, people faced with tough choices and limited resources. Then, as I gained seniority in uniform, I began to read more “ancient” history.

Reading is the least expensive form of learning. It opens doors into worlds we might never experience ourselves, teaches us lessons paid for by others, and generates increasingly complex ideas as our awareness grows. All these elements help accelerate us along our path to making an ever greater — and wider — impact!

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 things that have already happened without safety briefs

On September 4, 2018, the Secretary of the Army signed a memo that shifted the Earth under the U.S. Army by declaring that the Safety Brief, a longtime weekend ritual of every formation across the primary land forces of these United States, was no longer required.

For soldiers everywhere, the news was met with a sudden intake of breath and widening of the eyes.


And then, after careful reading, an eye roll and long sigh — because the memo only removed the requirement for the safety brief, it didn’t prohibit them. So, yeah, most soldiers are probably still getting safety briefs every weekend. But, through a network of squirrels, pigeons, and the occasional honey badger, WATM has learned about these 7 events that totally happened since the safety briefs were dropped at some units:

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

An investigating officer enters one of the stolen Army wreckers.

(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

An unknown Fort Bliss corporal stole everything he could get his hands on, including the flagpole

An unidentified corporal assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas, went on a wild crime spree, stealing everything from a humvee to the keys to the dropzone to the physical flagpole from which the base colors fly. That last theft was only made possible by the multiple wreckers which he stole beforehand. Worse, the corporal ate the dropzone keys, and has not yet passed them.

When reached for comment, a Fort Bliss spokesman would only mutter, “We didn’t even think the dropzone could be locked. How the hell are we going to train there, now?”

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

No, it doesn’t make any sense that a sergeant first class led the fireteam, but this article is clearly satire — of course there are no real photos of the fireteam entering Canada.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Haley D. Phillips)

A fireteam from Drum invaded Canada under the incorrect assumption that “it’s basically polite Russia”

Meanwhile, at Fort Drum, a single fireteam, working under the assumption that all countries under a certain temperature are basically Russia, invaded Canada with no warning, capturing two banks, a law office, and the Chamber of Commerce of a large town before the Canadian Army arrived and eventually captured them despite heavy losses.

The Fort Drum commanders quickly apologized, but were surprised when the Canadians simply offered to fly the fireteam to Moscow just to “see what the little hellions can do there.”

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

A rapid response team made up entirely of officer candidates were the first on scene after Pvt. Skippy’s actions were reported. They apparently took the threat of his captured “Charizard” seriously, while local NCOs shook their heads in disbelief.

(U.S. Army National Guard Maj. Matt Baldwin)

Pvt. Skippy of Joint Base Lewis-McChord went on a rampage

A common refrain of the weekend safety brief is, “Don’t beat your fish, don’t beat your dog, don’t beat your neighbor’s dog. You can beat something else of your own, but not your neighbor’s — unless it’s consensual.”

Apparently, that was the only thing stopping Pvt. Skippy, because he attacked every animal he could find in the vicinity of the barracks, according to MP reports. When apprehended, he explained that he was “playing Pokemon Go when the damnedest Pikachu showed up. It was all brown, smaller, and eating acorns,” and he asked the MPs why they hated video games.

His toxicology report has not yet come back.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

By all reports, the girls, girls, girls survived, but will have to find new work in the harsh light of day.

(Rick Hall, CC-BY 2.0)

Three bars and two stripclubs have been declared total losses in the Fort Hood area

Base officials aren’t talking about what happened at a series of business right outside of South Fort Hood last weekend. At most, you can hear them mutter things about “tornadoes” and “wildfires” under their breath as they rapidly walk away.

But, insurance companies on the hook for the damages have pointed out that every damaged business caters to soldiers, was operating normally on Friday, and was expecting a slow weekend since the weather was normal and it wasn’t a paycheck weekend.

Instead, five businesses have been completely demolished and are currently littered with debris, broken teeth, and a few stray dog tags.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

It only took one report of less-than-horrible meals at the facilities for the senior brass to know something was up.

(U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Zach Tomesh)

Multiple detention specialists at Guantanamo Bay are facing charges of renting out cells on Airbnb

With the low numbers of prisoners currently housed at Gunatanamo, some specialists there apparently decided that a rules-free weekend was the perfect time to transition empty cells into small apartments, renting out the rooms to tourists on Airbnb.

The scheme was discovered quickly as guests kept wandering into the facility’s kitchens to steal ingredients and oven space for their personal meals. When soldiers on base started enjoying the food that came out, the brass knew something was up.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Fort Bragg Paratroopers are tested for the new STDs. With an average of less than two infections per soldier, the situation is much closer to normal than epidemic specialists had dared to hope for.

(Department of Defense Brenda Gutierrez)

Every D.A. civilian in North Carolina has contracted an STD

In a surprise twist on Fort Bragg, every Department of the Army civilian has contracted at least one STD, despite the fact that no one was trying to sleep with them.

Experts from the Center for Disease Control are working off the theory that the soldiers went so crazy when they weren’t reminded to not sleep with strippers, spouses, and local women, that they created a cross between multiple major STDs and an upper respiratory infection that was prominent in Fayetteville, N.C. at the time, allowing the previously sexually transmitted diseases to become airborne.

Either that, or the paratroopers left so much fluid on all of the base’s surfaces that now it’s just dangerous to be on or near the installation.

A new memo has been drafted making the safety brief mandatory once again

Amidst all the chaos, the Department of the Army is quietly preparing to reinstate the mandatory brief, hopefully while they still have an army to administrate. While retention rates have suddenly jumped, hospital admissions and police bookings have more than wiped out the retention advantage.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to prepare for coronavirus without freaking out your family

Almost everyone agrees that being prepared for the worst while hoping for the best is the ideal way to get through life. It’s balancing optimism with action, which makes perfect sense right? On one hand, optimism without action is just being blindly oblivious to reality. On the other hand, being laser focused on inevitable trauma robs you of a fulfilling life.


In theory, we all agree on this. But where are the lines drawn? How can you tell when you’ve slipped from Boy Scout to Doomsday Prepper? How do you know if you’re teaching your kids to be thoughtful and self-reliant, or creating mini-balls of crippling neuroses?

The world – especially right now – isn’t exactly helping matters. Coronavirus is public enemy number one. But then there’s also the fact that climate change has nature erupting into fits of destructive insanity, healthcare is still a privilege rather than a right in far too many places, and school shootings are a bi-weekly occurrence. It is not a time to be even mildly anxious, so it’s understandable if the state of things has you teetering on the edge of a full-on panic room scenario.

We all want to protect our families and ourselves, so let’s try and find the happy medium that allows us to consider stepping outside once in a while.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

The Healthy Way to Prepare for the Worst

“Preparedness not only makes sense from a practical standpoint, it is, I believe, a responsibility that every parent has,” says Dr. George Everly, Jr., a professor at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and author of When Disaster Strikes: Inside Disaster Psychology.

In his work, Everly often uses a different term when discussing the concept of being prepared: Resilience. Not only does this choice of word carry with it significant connotations – it makes you think of someone who is resourceful and strong, not worried – it also sits at the core of a very important psychological trait.

“Preparation does bring not only reassurance but a sense of self-efficacy,” says Everly. “Self-efficacy lies at the root of self esteem.”

“Self-efficacy,” Everly points out, was coined by Canadian-American psychologist Dr. Albert Bandura, the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University. In the 60s and 70s, Dr. Bandura conducted a number of studies on this concept, which essentially boil down to a person’s belief in their ability to alleviate their own phobias. It’s not so much a belief that you can avoid problems by being prepared, it’s that you are confident that you can overcome them when they plop on your doorstep.

This is an important distinction. One is having an almost talisman-like belief that your emergency kit will ward off danger; the other combines action with self-reliance and a form of optimism. In a Psychology Today essay “Preparing for Bad Things,” Everly calls this “Active Optimism,” which he defines as the belief “that life events will turn out well, largely because one believes she/he possesses the ability to assist in making things turn out well.” That’s the sweet spot.

In addition to a strong sense of self-efficacy, Everly believes that confidence in previous success is vital (locking the doors and avoiding all dangers won’t actually prepare anyone for anything), as are encouragement and self-control. Learning to keep stress levels down and emotions in check can do a lot to help you overcome problems or handle unexpected emergencies. After all, panic leads to doubt and confusion and, ultimately, a much worse situation.

The Unhealthy Way to Prepare For the Worst

There’s a big difference between preparation — and Everly’s idea of Active Optimism — and pure paranoia.

“Can one worry and prepare to an excessive degree? Of course, as one can eat too much chocolate cake or exercise too much or even drink too much water,” says Everly. “The bottom line, I believe, is prepare as best one can for the highest probability ‘worst case scenarios’ then leave it alone. Move on.”

However, Everly is more concerned about the other end of the spectrum, where parents lean too much into optimism to the point where they seem to actively deny the existence of real world concerns.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

“Repression and denial can be effective ego defense mechanisms and are certainly the prerogative of any given individual,” he says. “But I believe that prerogative must yield to a higher responsibility one has to one’s children.”

To Everly’s early point about action being a necessary component of preparedness and resilience, Dr. Clifford Lazarus offers a succinct distillation of the idea in his essay “Why Optimism Can Be Bad For Your Mental Health.” In it, Dr. Lazarus explains the difference between types of optimism that echo Everly’s beliefs.

“The difference between false optimism and rational optimism can be captured by two different statements,” he writes. “‘There’s nothing to be concerned about, everything will be just grand.’ That’s false optimism. The second statement reflects realistic optimism: ‘We’ve got a real mess on our hands, things don’t look too good, but if we tackle it step by step, we can probably do something about it’.”

Moving Forward

While both Everly and Lazarus preach the perfectly reasonable idea of action along with resilience and optimism, even those concepts can go too far. All you have to do is see the deeply unnerving lack of Purell at the store in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, or the mad, panicky rush to stock up on water and essentials when a severe storm is on the horizon. This is action, for sure, but it is action robbed of realistic optimism and, in many cases, credible information.

A lot of the psychological problems that fester alongside attempts to prepare for disaster come from a lack of information mixed with speculation, imagination, and outright lies. Being able to sift through the social media Chicken Littles who declare the end of the world with every sneeze is vital for not only true preparedness, but for passing on a sense of resilience and emotional strength to your children. A constant barrage of misinformation can make any form of action seem pointless, which is counterproductive.

“People who exhibit pessimism with limited self-efficacy may perceive psychosocial stressors as unmanageable,” says Everly. “And are more likely to dwell on perceived deficiencies, which generates increased stress and diminishes potential problem-solving energy, lowers aspirations, weakens commitments, and lowers resilience.”

So where does that leave us?

There’s the simple truth that we’re never going to be prepared for everything. The world is a Whack-a-Mole game of problems and tragedies, and something will catch you off-guard at some point. Locking yourself in a well-stocked bunker also isn’t a viable option for anything remotely resembling a life. What is, is to cultivate a sense of self-efficacy in yourself and your children. The optimism of “I didn’t see this coming, but I can overcome it.” So, prepare. Have contingency plans in place. Be ready for the worst. Practice resilience. And help yourself — and your family — understand that things will be under control. And maybe buy a 30-pack of batteries.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Becoming the “World’s Premier Gateway to Space” does not happen overnight. It takes decades of dedication by men and women around the United States. From July 19 to July 22, 2019, Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan visited the men and women at the 45th Space Wing and attended the 50th anniversary event of NASA’s historic Apollo 11.

Since former President John F. Kennedy’s revered “moon speech,” the race to establish dominance in space has been apparent. When the U.S. first put man on the moon July 20, 1969, the world held its breath.

Now, 50 years later, Donovan – along with Vice President of the United States Mike Pence, NASA employees and thousands watching across the world – looked back on this historic moment at the Apollo 11 anniversary event at the Kennedy Space Center.


“I was 10 years old, and my mom let me stay up late to watch the landing on television,” Donovan said, recalling the moment he watched the first man walk on the moon. “I remember the previous Christmas, I received and built the Apollo Saturn V model moon rocket. The moon landing captured the imagination of everyone, young and old. It was really an amazing time. It’s hard to believe that was 50 years ago.”

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin stands on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module, Eagle, during the Apollo 11 moonwalk.

(NASA)

Visiting the “World’s Premier Gateway to Space” reminded Donovan of how he felt during that time, as he met airmen — both at Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station — who contribute to the leaps and bounds the Air Force makes each day with its space capabilities.

The airmen of the 45th Space Wing are focused on 100% mission success while delivering assured access to space for the warfighter and the nation. Donovan met with some of these airmen at Space Launch Complex-37 on July 19, 2019, to receive a brief on United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV rocket and learn how the airmen play a role in the space mission.

“The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space,” Kennedy said during his 1962 speech at Rice University, Houston.

Donovan agrees.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan shakes hands with 45th Operations Group Airman July 19, 2019, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zoe Thacker)

“These airmen and the space mission are absolutely critical,” Donovan said. “Over the years, whether it be a global positioning system, communications or intelligence and reconnaissance mission; our foothold in space is critical. It’s so critical that our adversaries have noticed that and gone to school on the American way of war. From that, we now look forward to the development of the United States Space Force.”

The role of 45th Space Wing Airmen will change significantly because they’ll be some of the first individuals moved into the new service, Donovan said. I wish I could go back and do it all over again as to be on the ground floor of such a historical event as standing up a sixth service. I think it’s very exciting – the role that our airmen are going to play.

As U.S. Space Command and the U.S. Space Force come to fruition in the years to come, there is much excitement from the airmen of the 45th SW, the Air Force and the United States as a whole.

“One of the things that excites me the most for the future is the synergy that we have between the government and the space launch industry,” Donovan said. “Through different space pioneers, we’re able to lower the cost of space launch and pack more capabilities into a smaller package. Just imagine the possibilities that will come from that. I’m excited to see, in the years to come, our space capabilities taken to the next level for the nation.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

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